Why we need a just transition

There is no doubt that we are already facing the effects of climate change. Sea levels are rising; glaciers and ice caps are melting faster than anyone envisaged. Around the world the frequency and strength of extreme storms is creating misery for the coastal poor while the rich move to higher ground.

Speakers at the Edinburgh Just Transitions conference will argue that our response to climate change has to be political. The recent UN report, and almost all large-scale policy initiatives, has been based on an assumption that market forces will drive a transition to a low carbon economy. There is a market response. Massive increases in wind and solar are a case in point. However, if current policies are continued, there is no chance that carbon reduction targets for 2030 and 2050 will be achieved either locally in Scotland or globally.

We have the technological knowledge to make a rapid transition to a sustainable economy. What’s missing is political will. We’ll argue that the politics of transition is as critical as the technology. On the one hand there is the status quo in a state reliance on the market. A top down approach that protects the rich and powerful – builds walls and fences and curtails civil liberties. On the other hand there is what is increasingly described as a Just Transition. This would involve programmes of publicly funded investment creating new jobs, protecting the livelihoods of those who will move from oil, gas and defence industries to new jobs and dramatically improving the living conditions of the bulk of the population through better insulated homes and improved public transport.

To achieve a Just Transition the response has to be international but action is required in every local context. In Scotland we start with significant advantages that could make us a beacon for the world. Across manufacturing, defence and construction there is a rich base of engineering skills. We have access to a wealth of natural resources wind, wave, tidal and hydro. Scottish Universities are at the forefront of developing wave and tidal technology.   The Scottish Government’s response is hugely better than Westminster’s. The proposed national energy company and green investment bank are essential for a Just Transition. However, the current plans show a poverty of ambition that falls far short of the radical steps that are required.

Only right wing ideologues now deny climate change. But beyond a relatively small layer of activists most people feel disconnected and powerless. This is reinforced by appeals to personal and lifestyle choices that are inaccessible to many. Surely the challenge is to link the necessary steps to the immediacy of working class lives. Workers in defence, construction and hydrocarbons are key. Their skills are needed to build the new and democratic economy. Yet at present they work in sectors that have seen a huge increase in agency workers and worsening pay and conditions. Despite excellent resolutions on climate change at the STUC, unions in these sectors continue to put jobs, any jobs, first. But this strategy is bankrupt morally, practically and politically. And increasingly workers in the industry recognise this. However, they need to believe that there is an alternative.

At the conference we’ll hear from authors of the Million Climate Jobs plan for transition, from the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, from climate activists and critically from workers in defence and construction. We will also hear from welfare campaigners fighting for social justice as represented by fuel poverty. Through the day discussion will focus on developing ideas that translate the issues and challenges that we face, and the steps that we know have to be taken, into a draft manifesto for action. We hope to circulate this far and wide to provoke debate, discussion and develop more ideas. Core to this will have to be a sense of developing collective organisation and social solidarity that will be essential in making the transition but will also shape our future and how we and those who come after us live in the world.

This article first published on Common Space 13/11/18

Solidarity with shipyard workers in North Devon

Reposted from REEL News

Huge demonstration in Bideford, North Devon this weekend, to stop the only merchant shipyard in the country from closing. All 200 workers are facing redundancy a few days before Christmas, and the knock-on effect for the local economy will be huge. And this shows the lunacy of modern capitalism – the Government urgently needs non-military ships built for the Royal Navy, but instead of giving the work to the highly skilled workforce at Appledore shipyard and keeping the shipyard open, they’re putting it internationally to competitive tender to get the lowest price.

On top of that, the Tories know they need to take drastic steps to move to renewable energy to stop catastrophic climate change – so why aren’t they immediately giving Appledore a contract to build all the offshore wind turbines and other infrastructure we’re going to desperately need, and instead pushing ahead with a dangerous fracking operation that is already causing tremors and will push up our carbon emissions?

This is also one of the few places left with a proper apprenticeship scheme, training up the highly skilled workers of the future – but the Tories and engineering multinational Babcock International want to just chuck all this in the bin in their race to the bottom.
This is a major dispute kicking off with national importance – get behind the Appledore workers and demand the shipyard stays open. You can start by signing the petition at before they and it in to Parliament tomorrow.



Just Transitions: Employment, Energy and Environment

A one day conference on Saturday 17 November

The aim of the conference is to bring together rank and file trade unionists, and climate activists to debate and discuss the transition to a sustainable economy. The focus is on jobs, energy and the environment.   Contributors include Joe Pisani (Unite steward Balfour Beattie, Rosyth Dockyard and Unite Executive), Jonathan Neale (Campaign Against Climate change and coauthor of the Million Climate Jobs pamphlet), Andrew Feinstein (author, filmmaker and CAAT), Fliss Premu (REEL news) and Hazel Graham (Cumbrian climate activist). The agenda will cover climate change, transitions, job creation and defence divestment.

Sign up for the conference on Eventbrite

If you would like to book one or more children into the creche please email Zareen at with the names and ages of the children.  To ensure that we have sufficient creche workers bookings for the creche will close on 12th November.

If you are a member of an organisation that could sponsor the conference download the invitation letter here

You can download a poster/flyer to advertise the conference here

conference flyer.


Film showing at Edinburgh World Justice Festival

2018-07-19 08.57.05Just Transitions: Employment, Energy and Environment

Friday 12th October, 7.30pm Augustine United Church, George 4th Bridge, Edinburgh

Showing of the REEL News film, Just Transitions, followed by discussion


Nuclear – no thanks

The latest ScotE3 briefing looks at the uncertain contribution that Scotland’s two ageing nuclear reactors make to energy supply, argues that nuclear has no place in a sustainable energy policy and that immediate steps should be taken to invest in alternatives.  Download the bulletin here.

Bulletin 6 screen shot

Three new briefings available

With the addition of numbers 3 – 5 we now have 5 briefing sheets available – all downloadable from this site.

#1 INEOS and fracking

#2 BiFab shows prospects and pitfalls facing Scotland’s renewables energy new age

#3 Time for action

#4 Trident & Jobs

#5 Deindustrialisation and Diversification

What kind of expertise is needed for low energy construction?

Thanks to Craig from the PCS union’s Green Forum for highlighting this paper.  It looks at the skills that are required for a serious shift to low energy construction.  It argues that a new curriculum is required for vocational training and that a low carbon future for construction requires a radical transition pathway rather than market-based solutions.  You can read or download the paper here.